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Milena Maksimović Kovačević

The ethical, aesthetic and communicative role of printmaking and visual arts in an age of global change and crisis

The world we used to live in has undergone a leveling at the same speed as it has disappeared in Lars von Trier's Melancholy. A pandemic. We are witnessing a global leveling, everything has stopped, everything has been suspended, as in a science fiction film that some minds were able to glimpse, maybe even imagine, envision. The country we live in has been in a deadlock for far too long, but this time it is not just local. Everything stopped, except for the flow of information, inevitably accompanied by images. Visual perception is being imposed, the ability to interpret information that we inevitably receive, like it or not, and the processing of what is seen is part of the decoding, understanding, ability to reproduce the sequence of events. Today's world, more than ever, is dominated by pictorial information, exploiting the visual at the expense of the written has made it meaningless with endless misinformation and spins. The old maxim that a picture is worth more than a thousand words has now proved true. First comes the picture, followed by information / misinformation. Along the way, all the rules change, the way things work, the priorities, the market, everything we are used to and what we were taught, everything in this supposedly deadlock is actually accelerating and changing at an eerie speed. The ability of our mind and being to follow that rhythm and changes will certainly be a future research subject for sociologists, psychologists and related professions, as well as all of us individually. Are we ready, how much truth can we bear, how significant is the personal in such circumstances? Sound, smell, touch, kiss, feeling, drawing? How many of us, both as artists and as consumers, are satisfied with online presentations, concerts and performances, and will we find a form that replaces the essential need for direct interaction? These are new topics and they concern all possible fields, but without the necessary time distance, the consequences cannot be predicted.

What is the position of fine art-printmaking today in 2020. Has printmaking gone "beyond" the media edge or has it expanded / developed a new field of action?

f.Graphik f. Graphic art f. pll / Graphic arts, fine-art printing, fine-art printmaking / arts graphique, graphisme m. / arts graphique, graphisme m. / From Greek. graphien = to write. 1. Graphic skill. Collective name for artistic manual techniques in the production and printing of original printing forms, intended for reproduction of an image or text. In a broader sense, it also includes typographic art. 2. Reproductive graphics. Collective name for all technical (photomechanical and chemigraphic) procedures in the production of printing forms, all printing procedures, which serve to reproduce the original templates.
F. Mesaroš, Grafička encikopedija (Graphic Encyclopedia), p. 84

For a long time, humanity has been daily confronted with printed things. Everything made in a reproductive, printed format is, conditionally speaking, a print. Photocopies, newspapers, stamps, photographs, posters, T-shirts with applications, packaging - these are just examples of prints in our environment. In the practical sense, the press media represents the reproduction of information and images and as such has an applied, non-artistic function. The boundaries between traditional printmaking and other printed forms were shifted in the 1950s, when a departure from the traditional and experimental took place by disrupting the format and combining industrial and traditional techniques. Due to the daily development of technology, the boundaries that define different media are inevitably re-examined and shifted, and this applies to all forms of artistic expression, especially the visual ones.

However, each technique is only a means to achieve other goals, and in art today, more than ever, everything is allowed. Different approaches are what keep fine art printmaking alive and a field that is nevertheless changing and that is good. As in any artistic practice, the medium or process is only a means to realize an idea, thus the perception of printmaking today is much more flexible. With digitalization the possibilities have broadened, some processes are shortened or completely omitted, and numerous issues and controversies about what, in fact, is an artistic original and what determines it, are waiting for an answer. Is the print defined by the artist’s proof, the edition, is the matrix necessary - what are the traditional codes typical for this medium, what is a reproduction, photocopy, photography, etc. ? At the end, it can be said that the only thing that is still certain is that a print is an original printed copy of a limited edition.

The role, scope and positions of printmaking in the context of authorial poetics, curatorial practices and institutional programs in your professional environment

The twenty-first century has opened countless questions, expectations, catastrophic predictions and accelerations at all levels. The speed of change in the conception of society, the individual, consciousness, technology, is accompanied, more than ever, by visual representations through communication media, which today reach, via the Internet, the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet. Information flies at an unstoppable speed to all corners of the world, and the most direct and fastest way to transmit it is by an image. Serious transformations of society, the individual and consciousness in general, and therefore of art, whose meaning and role today, with the tradition that accompanies the development of civilization as we know it, has been called into question. Previously, a work of art was interpreted only visually, while today the concept, content, intellectual, and even social framework is often more important. In addition to all the technological potentials that are available for visual expression, and perhaps because of them, there is today a re-examination of the question of what fine art is and where the boundaries that separate it from other areas are - marketing, design, film, etc. as well as how much individual vision is really needed in the materialistic and positivist world. "Perhaps through technology, the world is toying with us, the object is seducing us by giving us an illusion that we have power over it. A dizzying hypothesis : perhaps rationality, which culminates in technical virtuality, is the last cunning act of irrationally and the desire for illusion, compared to which the will to truth, which according to Nietzsche, is only a diversion and a passing misfortune. ”(Bodrijar, Žan, Savršen zločin, (Perfect Crime) Časopis Beogradski krug, Biblioteka Circulus, prevod E.Ban, str.15)

Dealing with the spiritual, personal, individual is slowly shifting into the domain of the esoteric, exotic and the unnecessary. The dialogue with the audience takes place on various levels and often moves into the field of sociology, design, film, and is dictated by the media in accordance with the consumer and ideological awareness that they cultivate.

However, the need to understand the world visually is still more present than ever. Images transcend language barriers and contribute to communication in an increasingly globalized world. In my opinion the most effective means to achieve this continues to be the drawing. It is the primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, as important as the development of writing and verbal skills. In various fields: animation, architecture, design, fashion, film, science, drawing is a means of development, documentation, explanation, intervention and planning. It is a sophisticated expression of thought and communication, a starting point and a tool for creative research. In the long and intense history of civilization, drawing has been an essential tool for understanding, interpreting and analyzing the world we have inherited, and in art it is the cornerstone and starting point of every visual expression and opinion. The ability to visually absorb everything today has diluted the exclusivity and sensibility it inherently has . The artist, however, struggles to contrast his individuality with the general tendencies and imposed general values in a system where culture and art are being separated and where concepts such as management and the cultural industry emerge.

"Projects are financed mainly by foreign funds whose task is to form the kind of public discussions in society that in principle correspond to neoliberal capitalism. Artists then "fit" into the theme and thus it cannot be considered art. The works that are being created have a forced quality and, worst of all, are terribly boring. (…) Nobody loves art anymore ”. These are the words of my colleague Nikola Pešić in an interview for the weekly Vreme. Maybe no one really likes art anymore, except artists. A sad possibility.

In such an atmosphere, traditional printmaking is often excluded from reviews of contemporary art, or any printed media that can be reproduced is declared a print, which makes working with traditional techniques rather meaningless and devaluing. The fact that certain techniques cannot be defined contributes to the situation, for example, it is a common that a photo printed on a computer printer in a limited edition is signed as if it were a print, and in some practices it would be preferable to call something that is evidently a printed thing: a work on paper. However, this confusion refers to the entire contemporary art production, regardless of the type of media, and is related to the phenomenon of the time we live in, where all boundaries and definitions have become flexible and prone to daily changes before continuity is reached. The terror of too many choices.

If contemporary art production, regardless of the type of media, can be determined by two denominators - as a search for identity and as a marketing performance in a large/small market, which is one of the possible qualifications mentioned by Dušan Pajin, I certainly belong to the first group. Moving in previously set frameworks, in the domain of figuration and adhering to a large extent to traditional frameworks, based on the drawing, I insist on the possibility that sincerity and thought, if authentic, can be expressed no matter what medium is used. Because, as Tarkovsky said, the purpose of art is not, as is usually thought, the transmission of ideas, the propagation of thought, the purpose of art is to prepare man for death, to plough and harrow his soul, thus making it capable to embrace good ... it is completely irrelevant by what means it is achieved, and it is meaningless to insist on the segmentation of the media.

Significance of international biennials / triennials dedicated to artistic graphics

Large, international exhibitions of printmaking still survive, both due to tradition and the enthusiasm of individuals and institutions and of course the artists themselves. Prints have always been practical and easy to transport, exhibit and store, and in that sense, we from that branch of art are privileged as it is easy for us to exhibit, both in our country and abroad, even in the extraordinary circumstances of this year. These meetings and exchanges are precious, because it means coming out of the local milieu and, after all, leaving your own studio where you are alone with yourself. Placing your work in another space, in a crowd, in a multitude, among other people's energies, and there is a lot of it at such exhibitions, enables a different perception and reading and usually makes way for something new and different.

Milena Maksimović Kovačević

Translation from Serbian: Vanda Perović

Milena Maksimović Kovačević (1975, Serbia) received both her BA (1998) and MA (2001) from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Graphics, in Belgrade, in the class of Prof. Biljana Vukovic. Since 2000, she is a member of The Association of Fine Artists of Serbia (ULUS), with the status of freelance artist from 2001. Since 1995, her work has been exhibited on 14 solo exhibitions and about 200 group national and international exhibitions. She has been on PhD studies on Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, since 2009. Opširnije


M. Maksimović Kovačević, Foile au duex, 2014, aquatint, etching, chine colle, 65x100 cm
M. Maksimović Kovačević, Foile au duex II, 2014, aquatint, etching, chine colle, 65x100 cm


M. Maksimović Kovačević, Igračke plačke I, 2014, aquatint, chine colle, 65x100 cm
M. Maksimović Kovačević, L’amore, come la morte cambia tutto, 2013, aquatint, etching, 65x100 cm


M. Maksimović Kovačević, Lamentation, 2015, aquatint, etching, 65x100 cm
M. Maksimović Kovačević, Somewhere in Between, 2015, aquatint, etching, 65x100 cm


M. Maksimović Kovačević, Too Deep, Too Shallow, 2016, aquatint, etching, 80x120 cm
M. Maksimović Kovačević, Large Wave, 2011, aquatint, etching, 65x100 cm



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